Amnesty International says Ghana is safe haven for war crime suspects

law-scalesThe human rights group, Amnesty International (AI)says Ghana is one of the countries where it is easier for war criminals to seek refuge.

In three reports released Tuesday December 18, 2012 as part of its ‘No Safe Haven’ series, the group said legal loopholes in three countries, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone and Ghana make these countries safe havens for fugitives suspected of war crime and crimes against humanity, and called on these countries to close the legal loopholes.

The group says, the reports examine in detail how these countries have potentially left their doors open to those suspected of crimes under international law.

Christopher Keith Hall, Senior Legal Adviser for Amnesty International says, “There is a real risk that suspected war criminals will find safe haven in these countries and escape prosecution for some of the most serious offences known to humanity,”  adding, “All three countries must take immediate and concrete steps to ensure they do not unwittingly provide refuge to these suspects.”

None of the three countries have provisions in their domestic legislation to enable the authorities, using the rule of universal jurisdiction, to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of committing crimes under international law abroad, AI said.

According to AI, universal jurisdiction is an essential tool of international justice. It enables national authorities to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of committing grave crimes under international law such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

“Under international law, every victim of these heinous crimes has the right to justice, truth and full reparation. Victims must be allowed to seek justice including in third countries where the suspects may be hiding,” said Hall.

“Vanuatu, Ghana and Sierra Leone – together with many other countries – must amend their legislation and eliminate obstacles to the exercise of universal jurisdiction,” he said.

The group however commends Ghana for the country’s decision to implement the Rome Statute.

“There are many positive aspects to the Draft International Criminal Court Act 2012, including provisions seeking to implement all of Ghana’s complementarity and cooperation obligations under the Rome Statute,” it said, adding, “However, concerns remain regarding certain aspects of the draft act. Among other shortcomings, the draft does not make clear which law would take precedence in case of a conflict between the draft act (and other Ghanaian law) and the Rome Statute; and under the bill decisions by a political official whether to prosecute a person for a crime under international law are effectively unreviewable.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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